Jo Tindley. Photo: Bob MacGregor
Jo Tindley has been racing a bike for over twenty years. She has raced at national level across multiple disciplines and internationally on the track and road. Her specialty is crit racing, becoming the National Elite Series Winner in 2019.
Currently riding for UCI Women’s Cycling team CAMS-Tifosi, Jo’s career has been all about hard graft as well as talent. She’s worked at McDonald’s, been a cleaner, a tyre fitter and a driver, all to make her cycling career possible. She’s also completed a degree for good measure as well.
Jo’s career is a great example of the rewards of hard effort. It is, therefore, no surprise that cyclists of all levels want to benefit from her newly launched mentoring service for female riders.
"Never give up, work hard and surround yourself with the right people."
With her determined approach, high work ethic and Dean Downing as her coach, Jo is certainly a role model many young riders should benefit from working with.
TGC: Congratulations on completing your Sports Therapy Degree Jo. Describe the challenge of doing this alongside your race and training schedule?
JT: Thank you. In all fairness, it wasn’t much of a challenge. I have always had a job and I found working full time more challenging than a full time degree. Although I still worked in a pub a few times a week, alongside seeing clients as part of the course, I found I had more time to train and when I was off the bike I was at home studying. The degree was only two and half days a week, with external hours in a clinic, pitch side or at events. Most of the events would be at the weekends but my tutors understood that I was unable to do this due to racing and training at weekends, so I was allowed to make this up elsewhere. I found I got into a really good routine over the three years which enabled me to train well. I do believe that if you want something enough you will find the time.
“My time is limited as a bike rider and I intend to make the most of what I have left.”
TGC: Were there any advantages to having something else to take your mind off bike racing?
JT: No, not really. I would rather not have a distraction from bike racing if I am honest. Don’t forget, there are so many other things you can focus on off the bike for bike riding, like recovery, nutrition and mindset. What you have to remember is my age and experience in the sport, also my life all comes from cycling. I met my boyfriend from cycling and my job is linked to cycling. I do understand it is good to have a balance but I don’t feel I need a distraction. My time is limited as a bike rider and I intend to make the most of what I have left. I appreciate every single minute of it and have the rest of my life to do other stuff.
Jo putting in the hard efforts. Photo: Bob MacGregor
TGC: What made you choose that particular course and what prompted you to take the degree when you did?
JT: I have never had what I call a ‘proper’ job or career. I have worked in McDonald’s, I’ve been a cleaner, a driver, a tyre fitter, and worked in cafes, pubs and restaurants as these sorts of jobs were usually zero hour contracts which suited me with racing.
In 2017, just before the season started, I had an issue with my back which resulted in a visit to the doctors and a local sports therapist. No one really had an answer to why this had happened, and it took me six months for it to start to be right again. Because of that I regularly saw the sports therapist and each week I would ask her ‘what’s that?’ or ‘why does it hurt?’ and she would answer my questions week in week out. In 2017, she suggested I enroll on a degree course in sports therapy. My response was that I was too old, I was twenty nine at the time, I couldn’t afford it, they won’t have me and I don’t have the qualifications. Long story short, I ended up enrolling in the August for a September start of a three year degree course at Lincoln College. I was at a point in my life where I was able to do this with the support of Rick Lister, my boyfriend. I had actually been thinking about making 2018 my last year on the bike, until winning a silver medal at the National Crit Champs that season changed all my plans.
“I always remember my Head of Year telling me that cycling wasn’t a career choice and that I wouldn’t earn any money from it.”
TGC: I watched your interview with Becca Charlton on the CAMS-Tifosi Instagram page and it came across that learning is really important to you. Has this always been the case?
JT: Actually, no. I hated school and am not academic in the slightest! I would play truant and end up in detention a fair bit and pretty much failed my GCSE’s. In fact, at the end of school assembly I was awarded a certificate for the most ‘after school detentions’ over my time at school. I always remember my Head of Year telling me that cycling wasn’t a career choice and that I wouldn’t earn any money from it. In all fairness, she was right, but I wasn’t going to listen to her. As I was always a pain at school she took me to one side once, in the lead up to my GCSE’s, and said If I didn’t pull my finger out I would end up working in McDonalds, which I did… and it wasn’t as bad as she made it out to be!
“I guess it was lock down itself, and the opportunity this provided me with to train and think like a full time bike rider.”
TGC: You also said you committed yourself to getting better during the recent lockdown as you never want to waste the opportunities presented to you. What event made you revaluate in this way?
Jo in the groove. Photo: Bob MacGregor
JT: I guess it was lock down itself, and the opportunity this provided me with to train and think like a full time bike rider. Rick is a courier, which is classed as a key worker, and his job is the main income into the house. In March, I had a clinic in a gym, was working from home as well as going to college three times a week. While we were on training camp in Spain in February, I was keeping an eye on the COVID situation in the UK and, due to the nature of sports therapy, I had a feeling it would impact me. I got home and had a client cancel on me, due to having to have a swab as she came back from Italy, there and then I closed the clinic and stopped going to college. I don’t do germs as the best of times, let alone deal with something like Covid. So, I finished my degree from home and was jobless while Rick worked extra hours. I felt useless at home. I told myself that I would be out at nine am on the dot on the bike, regardless of the weather, and ten am at the weekend. I saw this as my new job and a really good opportunity to work even harder, I could not waste this time.
“Moving over to Downing Cycling has been one of the best decisions I have made. It is really hard to put into words how much I have gained from working with Dean.”
TGC: I understand you’ve been working with Dean Downing as your coach since September last year. What have you gained from his expertise and his guidance?
JT: Moving over to Downing Cycling has been one of the best decisions I have made. It is really hard to put into words how much I have gained from working with Dean. I feel we work really well together and my confidence has really improved on the bike. I have been doing blocks of training that I never thought I’d ever be able to do, it is also the first time I have really worked to power as well. In the past, for example, I have never spoken with my coaches about my menstrual cycle, which is actually a very important part of being a female athlete. It has only been since working with Dean that I realised just what impact this has on my performance. Dean does really try to educate me with what we are doing and what the numbers mean, often it goes straight over my head!
I am someone who measures success in race performances, so this year has been very different for me as a rider. Dean understands this, so knows how to manage this with me, which has kept me very much motivated and focused. As far as I am concerned, I trust Dean, he is so committed to me as he is with all his riders that it makes me committed to my training. So I get on and follow my plan and see the results. I trust the process. I also have so much respect for Dean as a rider and as a coach. As a junior growing up, I remember spending a lot of time in the track centre at Manchester and would watch him and Russ ride the madison. I am really excited to get racing again, I will learn even more working with Dean.
“I have always helped my team mates, especially those making the jump from local level racing to national level, and find it very rewarding.”
TGC: You recently posted about a new mentoring service you’re offering for female riders. Can you tell us a bit more about it and how it came about?
JT: It all came about really quite fast. Over the years, I have always helped my team mates, especially those making the jump from local level racing to national level, and find it very rewarding. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the main sponsor for Velo Performance who asked me to mentor her daughter for the upcoming nationals. We spoke via FaceTime, as she is based in Ireland, and she had a fantastic result which made me think I may be on to something. I then spoke to Dean and it went from there.
“I just want to help riders achieve their goals from the experiences I have had over the years.”
Jo with U23 teammate Katie Scott. Photo: Jo Tindley
TGC: What level of riders do you work with?
JT: I don’t really offer a clear-cut package with this, I just feel I want to help riders achieve their goals so it is very much dependent on their abilities. I am working with a few riders at the moment from very different backgrounds. I have two young riders who I speak with weekly and contact via messages. One is racing and is in the lead up to her Track Nationals, so we speak a lot about how to manage nerves and race tactics etcetera. Another rider is local and isn’t racing at the moment, so I do try to ride out with her if I can. On the other end of the spectrum, I was approached by another local rider who bought a bike during lockdown, found the love, and realised that it’s a very male dominated sport so she reached out to me. This rider wants to get into racing and is very passionate and needs guidance on how to do this.
I just want to help riders achieve their goals from the experiences I have had over the years. Since having posted out about mentoring, I have been approached by so many local women getting into the sport which is fantastic! My plan is to get us all together for skills sessions at my local club, VC Lincoln, where we have a closed circuit which is perfect for developing skills and confidence.
“I would like to hope I’d have an impact on some young riders’ careers and even getting new females into the sport.”
TGC: How would you ideally like to see this service develop and what impact would you like it to have on female cyclists?
JT: I do tend to go with the flow in life. I haven’t really thought it through that deeply, things can change and I am happy to adapt the service as it develops. I have been contacted by someone who wants to work with me and bring me into her coaching service, which really interests me. I also speak a lot with Dean, who has helped me a lot with this, so I will just see where this leads me. I would like to hope I’d have an impact on some young riders’ careers and even getting new females into the sport. As an U23, there were very few female role models for me, so I know how hard it can be at that age. If I can help riders at this age in some way, as well as help to attract women into the sport since female participation in local clubs is very low in Lincolnshire, I would be very happy.
TGC: What positive changes have you seen in women’s cycling over your twenty years in the sport?
JT: Twenty years and counting! I have seen so many positive changes. When I first started racing, in 1999, the national U16 crit champs only had seven riders! TV coverage is a big thing. I found it really disappointing to read that TV coverage was being pulled from racing this year, to me this was a huge step backwards. So many teams rely on this coverage for sponsors.
TGC: What more needs to happen do you think?
JT: I get asked this question a lot and every time I don’t know how to answer it. I do understand there is still so much improvement to be made, but on the other hand, I am so grateful that I able to still be racing at the level I am.
“I work three jobs to be able to ride at this level but this is my choice to be a bike rider, so I just do it.”
TGC: Is it similar to Men’s Continental teams where the majority of the riders have to either rely on generous parents, personal sponsors or need other income streams to fund their racing?
Jo in the bunch. Photo: Bob MacGregor
JT: I don’t know much about the men’s side of things, but yes, there are no full time women on the UK scene really, unless you count students and even then that’s not full time. All the full time women ride for big teams on the continent. I ride for a UCI Pro-Conti team and all the riders on the team work. I know that if I were a man at this level, I would be on a wage. I work three jobs to be able to ride at this level but this is my choice to be a bike rider, so I just do it.
TGC: What else would you like to achieve in the sport?
JT: Again, this is where I don’t have an answer. I just want to see how far I can get in the sport. I have a great support network around me and I’ll continue to work hard and see where it takes me, but as soon as I stop enjoying it, I will stop.
“Never give up, work hard and surround yourself with the right people. I am on a team of great riders but my team at home off the bike is just as important!”
TGC: You have put the building blocks in place for a career beyond bike racing. What are your feelings when you consider life without racing at Conti level?
JT: I don’t think that far ahead. When I was twenty, I had a few years away from the sport, so I know what life is like without cycling and it didn’t go too well. But like I said before, I don’t have much of a plan, I am just enjoying what I am doing now. I think if you spend too much time worrying about the future you miss out on what is happening in front of you. It’s how I look at my training, if I start worrying about the big session at the end of the week, I won’t make the most of the training session I have that day.
TGC: It’s inspiring hearing you describe your hunger for winning and continuous improvement. What advice would you offer to female riders with ambitions to ride at Continental level and above?
JT: Never give up, work hard and surround yourself with the right people. I am on a team of great riders but my team at home off the bike is just as important!
The GC would like to thank Jo for sharing her insights and experiences as a rider.
We wish her and the CAMS-Tifosi team every success for the future. If you would like to know more about the race team please visit their website camstifosi.com. If you would like to know more about Jo’s mentoring service check out Jo Tindley Sports Therapy on Instagram.
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